"First game, so take it slow and move forward". Heading into Sunday, Ian Kinsler was atop the standings with four hits, three runs and two RBI. Nicholas Castellanos put the Tigers up 4-3 with a homer in the seventh, but that lead - like all their others - was short-lived.
"Really, nothing came easy early on except for the first inning", said Verlander, who allowed just three hits and an unearned run. Ramirez remained in Boston on Saturday after being diagnosed with the flu.
It seems silly to regard the fifth game of the season as a "must-win" situation, so let's say it was just what the doctor ordered for the patchwork Red Sox after days of calling only for flu tests.
"The one thing that hasn't emerged was anyone talking about any excuses", manager John Farrell said. We come back and answer once again.
Justin Wilson pitched a ideal ninth for the Tigers for his first save of the season and second of his career. Francisco Rodriguez, the regular closer, got four outs the previous day.
The Red Sox had their opportunities vs. Verlander, particularly in the second when Mitch Moreland led off with a double, Pablo Sandoval walked, and Chris Young reached on an error. That rally ended when Andrew Benintendi grounded into a double play, and Zimmermann was able to make it through the middle innings fairly comfortably. Tampa Bay's Logan Morrison homered with one out in the eighth, a ball that hit off the top of the wall in right-center and deflected off a fan before bouncing back onto the field.
"Oh, I knew exactly he was going to do that".
In the ninth, Bradley appeared hurt when he hit a flyout to left, rounded first and went down holding his right knee. The lefty reliever was able to induce a lazy fly ball to left field, however, ending the frame and keeping the score tied at 1-1. The right-hander allowed a solo homer to Brandon Moss, but after Houston tied it in the bottom of the inning, Devenski stayed on the mound for the Astros in the 10th, 11th and 12th, eventually finishing with seven strikeouts again and getting the win when Evan Gattis drew a game-winning walk with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 12th.
"That's on your mind", said Detroit Tigers starter Justin Verlander.
"It's exciting. That's the way I want it", he said.
Everything felt a little more normal for the Red Sox on Sunday evening, enough that they could finally look forward to the Sale-Verlander showdown. Pomeranz, who is on the 10-day disabled list with a forearm flexor strain, threw an extended bullpen session on Saturday.
"Well, we couldn't hold them late", Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. And even though Verlander was out of the game after seven, the Red Sox couldn't break through against Detroit pitching. and you had the sense a heartbreak ending was going to be in store for Sale and the Sox.
It was Verlander's 20th consecutive start allowing three earned runs or less, tying teammate Daniel Norris for the longest stretch in baseball.